This game is significant on multiple levels. In the most visceral of senses this loss stings, I ran off everyone in my house, I have no voice, and I may have broken some two by fours on a brick wall. All of that sucks, and can't be undone. Now that my Id has had the run of the building for an hour the super ego is going to work on this game, and its findings are interesting.
Much like December this was the last time that the Bearcats are going to face the Cardinals at home for a long while. They had a chance to more or less lock up the AAC regular season title with a win. They played very poorly for much of the game, and yet they still had a chance to lock up the game late before borderline miraculous plays from the Cardinals self anointed saint gave the Cardinals life. In Teddy Bridgewater's case the life was keeping the Cards in the game with two awe inspiring plays. In Russ Smith's case that life is a rebirth in the AAC conference race. The Bearcats have a half game lead in the standings for the simple reason that they have played, and won, one more conference game than the Cardinals. UC has no margin for error though, and can only get a share of the title if UC and Louisville both run the table. So, that is the bad news for the Bearcats, but there is a silver lining should anyone care to look for it.
To find that silver lining you must accept the premise that Louisville is one of the 10 or so best teams in college basketball, and you sort of have to if you choose to believe that the Bearcats are one of the 10 or so best teams in college basketball. I do, and so should you.
Accepting that as fact, the conclusion is that Cincinnati hung with one of the the top 10 teams in the country, and arguably deserved to win the game, and they did that playing objectively terrible basketball. For most of the year Bearcats have feared what might happen if the Bearcats played terribly and gave the always reliable Sean Kilpatrick nothing in the way of support from anyone else. Not just little support, little support is the norm, I mean nothing. SK would never say it, but he got nothing from the other guys in white.
Justin Jackson took himself out of the game after two minutes in the first half and was a complete non factor when he played in the second. Part of that is the Bearcats having no one on the team capable of completing an entry pass. But there is also the matter of the Cards being one of the five or six teams that can make JJ look like his actual height rather than his listed height. JJ was the biggest no show on offense, but he wasn't the only one.
Non Sean Kilpatrick's shot 7 of 30 from the field, good for 23 percent. I could go on providing more statistical evidence that UC played horribly on offense, because there is plenty starting with the turnover rate and ending with points in the paint. But I stop there, because the lack of support wasn't of a new type, it was merely the most extreme forms of all the problems the Bearcats have had from day 1. They played that badly, and yet Louisville needed a blown defensive assignment from Titus Rubles to free up Russ Smith for a crazy jumper that won the game.
Making a run in the tournament is never going to be easy with this team, but it is possible, because its hard to imagine them playing this badly on offense again. For simple reason that there are only a handful of teams who can play with Louisville's intensity and their length. If there is one thing that the Bearcats do better than anyone else in the country is withstand long periods of bad offensive play while at the same time playing lock down defense. That will always give them a chance to string together four or five wins in a tournament setting. This game is but one data point, an important data point to be sure, and one that will be studied intensively in the week off until the Connecticut game, but it is only one, and it doesn't alter what this Bearcats team is ultimately capable of.